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From the Desk of Assemblyman Thomas Alfano: May 15, 2009

Assembly Passes Package to Preserve and Protect the Environment

Assemblyman Tom Alfano announced the Assembly has passed a comprehensive 12-bill package aimed at preserving New York’s natural resources by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, mandating the recycling of consumer electronic products and expanding the state’s role in protecting wetland areas.

Assemblyman Alfano was a sponsor of several bills of the package aimed at protecting the environment, recycling and “going green.” Alfano also called for an Earth Day revitalization of communities aimed at creating jobs and cleaning up brownfield sites.

“This bill package is a good first step. What I really would like to see is a very direct effort that aggressively attacks brownfields, cleans up sites with communities and then makes them shovel ready for new business. When you look around Elmont, Franklin Square, West Hempstead, North Valley Stream and Floral Park, you can easily come up with sites that are abandoned gas stations, old auto repair shops and stores that need to be cleaned up now. They are in prime locations where we can promote smart economic development that creates jobs and expands the tax base,” Assemblyman Alfano said.

Locally, Assemblyman Alfano pointed to abandoned gas stations on Dutch Broadway, Franklin Avenue and two Hempstead Turnpike locations that are in prime commercial areas. “These sites are just sitting there when they could be generating local revenue and giving people jobs. When we talk about Earth Day, we should be looking at cleaning up our communities and exploring ways to recycle land and make it productive for residents,” Alfano said.

The Assembly marked Earth Day with the passage of legislation that would authorize the state Department of Environmental Conservation to place restrictions on the levels of greenhouse gases that can be emitted statewide. The Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that temperatures would rise more rapidly if greenhouse gases are not abated. The panel concluded that reducing emissions 80 percent below current levels by mid-century would prevent the worst impacts of global warming. This legislation seeks to accomplish that goal.

The Assembly also passed a resolution urging Congress to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

The Assembly has also passed other measures to protect the environment, including legislation requiring the manufacturers of electronic devices including computers, televisions, printers and other technologies to develop equipment recycling programs. Recycling helps to prevent the release of toxic substances used in the production of electronic devices when they are discarded. The bill would protect consumers by preventing manufacturers from imposing recycling fees on their products.

Additional bills in the Assembly’s package would create the New York State Urban Pesticide Board to investigate the widespread sale and usage of industrial strength pesticides in urban areas, step up enforcement of existing restrictions on retail sales and educate the public about the hazards of pesticide use in the home.

Another bill would encourage and enhance statewide recycling efforts and compliance by private citizens, local governments and waste haulers by clarifying the obligations of waste haulers and specifying materials eligible for separation or recycling.

Another measure in the package would provide for the phase-out of pesticides on state property. The measure would discontinue the use of pesticides by the state and adopt a pest control policy that substantially relies on non-chemical pest control policies.

As a part of the Earth Day observation the Assembly also approved legislation that would prohibit the sale of any toy, child care product or beverage container containing bisphenol-A in products intended for children under 3 years of age; establish the New York State Healthy and Green Procurement Act to ensure that state agencies purchase environmentally friendly products; reduce the minimum acreage of wetlands the DEC can regulate from 12.4 acres to one acre and require permits for the subdivision of wetland areas; require testing of private wells upon the sale or transfer of real property and mandate periodic testing on leased properties; ban the use of the chemical flame retardant Decabromodiphenyl (DecaBDE) in electronics, textiles and mattresses; and create a Climate Change Solutions Program and a Climate Change Solutions Fund to use revenues raised from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to develop and promote clean and renewable energy programs.

Earlier this session the Assembly passed an additional environmental protection measure to clarify individual standing in private actions alleging violations of the environmental quality review provisions of the Environmental Conservation Law. Another measure would grant private citizens authorization to commence civil judicial actions under certain titles of the Environmental Conservation Law.

Assembly Passage of Dignity For All Students Act

Assemblyman Tom Alfano applauded the passage of the Dignity for All Students Act in the state Assembly, calling the measure “a way to protect children plain and simple.” The measure aims at ensuring public school communities provide students with a learning environment free of discrimination. Provisions of the legislation prohibit harassment and discrimination based on race, color, weight, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender. The lead sponsor of the legislation is Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and co-sponsoring the measure is Assemblyman Alfano.

“Quite frankly, the only thing students should be concerned about is whether their homework is done, they’ve studied for the test or they have a game or practice while they are at school. Nobody should be afraid of harassment. Threats, bullying and harassment, from the hallway to the Internet can’t be tolerated- period,” Alfano said.

A 2008 study found that 65 percent of teens reported having been verbally or physically harassed due to their appearance, gender, ethnicity, disability or religion. “These are alarming statistics that should make everyone pause and think about the impact of intimidation, bullying and harassment in a school. It can’t go on and we must provide safe environments for children and young people. When a young person is the subject of harassment it impacts them in all aspects of their life. We have to help and this measure is the starting point,” Alfano said. “I want to thank Assemblyman O’Donnell for this bill and standing up on this important issue for young people.”

Assemblymember O’Donnell added, “Too many students are bullied based on real or perceived differences with their classmates. Every student deserves an environment free of harassment and discrimination - an environment that allows every child to reach his or her full potential. For too long, our education system has been blind to the plight of these students. I am proud that the Assembly remains willing to address this important issue, and that the Dignity for All Students Act continues to win support.”

The bill (A.3661B/S. 1987A) directs school districts to develop procedures that create discrimination- and harassment-free schools, as well as guidelines for training personnel to respond to discrimination and harassment. The Commissioner of Education will also be required to provide advice, model policies and direct services, where possible, to help school districts establish policies to prevent discrimination and harassment. Incidents on school grounds or at school functions must be reported to the state Education Department annually.

The Dignity for All Students Act has passed the Assembly seven times in previous years.